Running is an increasingly popular pastime. In the United States, 18.1 million people ran 5k races in 2018 alone. However, one of the challenges that comes with running is the ever-present risk of injury. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common injuries that leaves runners with debilitating pain.

As a movement professional, you probably see countless runners with recurrent plantar fasciitis complaints. They’ve undergone manual therapy to the fascia, changed their footwear, and even tried injections. However, these modalities aren’t getting to the root cause of their problem.

For many runners, a Chain Reaction® in their bodies is the underlying cause of their condition – and with the right tools, you can help them find a lasting solution.

Our Bodies’ Chain Reactions Are the Key to Running Injuries

What many movement science professionals don’t recognize is that common running injuries, like plantar fasciitis, are often the result of issues in other, seemingly unrelated areas of the body. Applied Functional Science® teaches us that everything in the body is connected and that treating the root cause of the pain is the key to lasting healing. If we only treat the symptom and not the root cause, the pain will likely return as soon as your client or patient resumes their running routine.

Identifying and Treating the Root Cause of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the attachment of the fascial tissue on the bottom of the foot gradually pulls away from the calcaneus.  Runners suffering from plantar fasciitis usually experience immediate pain upon rising that eases as they become more active throughout the day. When the foot is at rest or is non-weight bearing, the affected tissues recoil; when activity resumes, they stretch and become painful once again.

In many cases, the plantar fascia experiences undue stress when the subtalar joint position is too pronated to stabilize the midtarsal joint. The affected areas of the foot are rarely to blame for the pain the runner is experiencing. To pinpoint the actual cause of the midtarsal dysfunction, we need to turn to Applied Functional Science.

Tight Calf Muscles and Ankle Dorsiflexion

We know that, based on the truths of the human body, asymptomatic dysfunction elsewhere in the body can cause the foot’s hypermobility during the propulsive phase of running.  One of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis is a tight calf muscle group that causes abnormal pronation, ankle dorsiflexion, and abnormal traction of the plantar fascia.

Hip Flexor Tightness

Another likely culprit is tightness in the hip flexor muscles, adductor muscles, or calf muscles of the left leg. This can reduce joint motion and mobility, causing poor propulsion. With poor propulsion, the pelvis will not rotate as far and as fast as it should. The lack of momentum of the pelvis will reduce the top-down Chain Reaction and make it difficult to decelerate and transform the foot pronation, leaving the foot “unlocked.”

Limited Thoracic Spine Motion and a Weak Core

Weak core muscles and limited thoracic spine motion could also be to blame for the Chain Reaction that starts in the hips and affects the foot. If the abdominals are unable to stabilize the pelvis, either because of weakness, fatigue, or lack of activation produced by thoracic spine stiffness, then the foot may remain too mobile during propulsion, leading to repetitive trauma to the plantar fascia.

Once you determine the root cause of your client or patient’s plantar fasciitis, you can help them build better warmups, training sessions, and cooldowns that facilitate the proper Chain Reactions. And once you’ve eliminated the dysfunction, they may experience permanent resolution of their symptoms.

RELATED: Probable Suspects: Plantar Fasciitis — Opposite Side Leg

Why a Functional Approach to Treating Running Injuries Matters

Treating plantar fasciitis through traditional methods, like manual therapy to the fascia, only treats the symptoms, not the root cause of your client’s or patient’s pain.

Understanding the causes of plantar fasciitis and all running injuries requires a system of assessment that accounts for how the body moves as a whole, rather than how individual parts “should” move in theory. Applied Functional Science empowers movement professionals like you to understand how the body works together in order to create lasting positive change for your clients.

Learn How to Treat Running Injuries at Gray Institute

At Gray Institute, we’re proud to lead the movement science field with innovative approaches to treating the body. To learn how Applied Functional Science and our Chain Reaction course can revolutionize your practice, contact us at (866) 230-8300 or send us an email at today!


Running USA Releases 2019 US Running Trends Report. Running USA. Retrieved from